CONWAY, SC – Tom Rice, the South Carolina congressman who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6 attacks, has a catch-all term for describe the former president’s crusade against him: Trump’s Very Presidential Traveling Circus of Revenge.
Mr. Trump has made impeachment of Mr. Rice, a five-term congressman, one of his top priorities in the state’s primary election on Tuesday. He backed the Republican primary for Mr. Rice’s seat behind state Rep. Russell Fry, calling for a rally for Mr. Fry this week and describing Mr. Rice as a ‘backstabbing RINO’ , the acronym of Republican in Name Only, a conservative slur.
“He raised his hand and that was the end of his political career — or so we hope,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Rice’s vote to impeach him.
In a 35-minute interview Friday alongside his wife, Wrenzie, after a barbecue lunch campaign event, Mr. Rice sounded very much like a man fighting for his political life. His campaign is not counting on an outright victory against Mr Fry, but rather preparing for a difficult second round with him.
But while some, having crossed paths with Mr. Trump, tried to salvage their political careers by backtracking on their comments or stepping down from Congress, Mr. Rice doubled down.
Learn more about the January 6 House committee hearings
“To me, his egregious failure – his inexcusable failure – has begun,” Rice said of the Jan. 6 riot. “He saw this happen. He reveled in it. And he did nothing to stop it. I think he had a duty to try to stop her, and he failed in that duty.
Mr. Rice, a pro-business conservative and self-proclaimed Chamber of Commerce Republican, helped craft Mr. Trump’s sweeping new tax code in 2017. Five years after those reforms and 17 months after the Jan. 6 attacks, he argued that the former president had overstayed his GOP welcome
“He is the past,” Mr. Rice said of Mr. Trump. “I hope he won’t run again. And I think if he runs again, he hurts the Republican Party. We desperately need someone who will bring people together. And it’s not that guy.
Rice said Thursday night’s Jan. 6 prime-time hearing, which featured footage of the Capitol riots and incriminating testimony from close Trump associates, “puts an exclamation mark on what we have done,” referring to the 10 House Republicans who supported impeachment.
In the days after the riot on Capitol Hill, Rice said, he considered voting to impeach Mr. Trump and spent that Saturday and Sunday in his home congressional district reading the dozens of stories he had asked his staff to send him. where the president was on January 6. When he learned of the president’s refusal to stop the attack, he became furious. As he cast his vote, he said he had “no question in my mind” about whether Mr Trump should be held accountable.
“I did then,” he said. “And I will tomorrow. And I will do it the next day or the day after. I have a duty to respect the Constitution. And that’s what I did. »
Mr. Rice, however, did not vote to certify the election, saying he was concerned about voting discrepancies in Pennsylvania that were outlined in a letter to House Republican leaders.
At a Republican House meeting a month after the Capitol riots, he defended Liz Cheney for her impeachment vote and criticized Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his continued embrace of the former president, according to the audio of the exchange.
“Kevin went to Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, shook his hand, took a photo and created Trumpmajority.com. Personally, I find that offensive,” Mr. Rice said at the time.
In the months since the vote, Mr. Rice has become an outcast among those in Mr. Trump’s circle, much like his wife. “I don’t feel like I fit in with this group anymore,” Rice said Friday, referring to the Republican base.
Mr. Trump’s efforts to sway Republican primary voters and disparage Mr. Rice have left the congressman both frustrated and puzzled. He came to view them as a political stunt.
“Bring the circus,” he said of Mr. Trump’s involvement in the primary. “You know, some people are afraid of clowns. I’m not afraid of clowns.
jonathan martin contributed report.
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